A couple of weeks ago, I finished a book called “The Storytelling Animal” by Jonathan Gottschall. The summary from the back of the book is as follows: “Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. Now Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling. He argues that stories help us navigate life’s complex social problems – just as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations. Storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival. Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal and explains how stories can change the world for the better. We know we are master shapers of the story. The Storytelling Animal finally reveals how stories shape us.”
Well. I picked this book up from amid the countless others for two reasons. First, as an avid reader and writer, I love to hear what people think about stories. I love dissecting stories and the reasons behind them. Second, and more importantly, it reminded me of one of my college professors (whom I will call H). H told stories all the time about his life, and was confident in the fact that stories are what make life rich.
The book, while not disappointing, was not entirely satisfying either. It started strong and ended strong, but the middle seemed rather muddled. Perhaps that is a bias on my part since I took two months of reading it while I was in the middle. But there were some questions at the beginning that I did not feel were fully answered by the end. Regardless, it was a fascinating read and I would 100% recommend it to anyone who is interested in stories.
Gottschall touches on many points of storytelling, including the creativity of stories, dreams, the biological reasoning for storytelling, stories having the power to change the world, and the mental health of story tellers. Each section was well-rounded and easy-to-read.
This is most assuredly a book for everyone, and I hope you will all pick it up. If you do (or have read it) let me know what you thought!
Take Care, fellow travelers.